WBKO is an ABC/Fox/CW+-affiliated television station licensed to Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States and serving south central Kentucky. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 13 from a transmitter along KY 185 and Richardsville Road in unincorporated northern Warren County (a tower it shares with PBS member station WKYU-TV, channel 24). Owned by Gray Television, WBKO has studios on Russellville Road (US 68 and KY 80) along the William H. Natcher Parkway in Bowling Green.
On cable, WBKO-DT1 is available on Charter Spectrum channel 9. WBKO-DT2 can be viewed via Spectrum channel 8, and WBKO-DT3 can be seen on Spectrum channel 12 (in both SD and HD: WBKO-DT3's sole HD distribution). All three subchannels can also be viewed on several other cable television services throughout the Bowling Green designated market area, including Mediacom (WBKO-DT1 and WBKO-DT2 only), and the Glasgow, Kentucky-based cable systems of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board (all three subchannels) and the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative (all three subchannels).
The station signed on the air on June 3, 1962, as WLTV (an acronym of Wonderful Live Television). It was the first commercial outlet to launch in Bowling Green and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 13. Joe Walters (a former RCA engineer) and Mr. and Mrs. George Brown (local sales people) owned the station through their company Argus Broadcasting. It was an independent station which originally had studios at its transmitter in rural Warren County.
On March 6, 1967, WLTV became affiliated with ABC and since then has aired all of its shows, with the exception of season one of NYPD Blue, which was instead broadcast on Fox affiliate WKNT (now NBC affiliate WNKY). After affiliating with ABC, the station moved to new studios located on Morgantown Road in downtown Bowling Green. After spending some time off the air in late 1969 due to an explosion destroying its transmitter, Argus Broadcasting sold the station to Professional Telecasting Systems on June 11, 1970. The explosion was due to an estimated 48 sticks of dynamite being placed at the bottom of the tower. It is suspected that a local bootlegger at the time did not appreciate the news spotlighting his operation. This did not collapse the tower but it stood with a bow in it; the transmission line on the lower section of the tower was destroyed and the tower was unsafe. A temporary tower with a temporary antenna was erected at the site and the station continued operation with diminished coverage a few months later. This heralded the relocation of the transmitter to the site where it now operates (and shares with PBS member station WKYU-TV).
The new owner, Professional Telecasting, adopted the WBKO (an acronym for Bowling Green, Kentucky's Own) call sign and instituted color telecasting for local in-studio programming and newscasts in 1971. By this time, the station had moved to studios on East 10th Street in downtown Bowling Green. In 1976, a local group known as Bluegrass Media bought WBKO from Professional Telecasting. It remained in Bluegrass's hands until 1983 when broadcaster A. Richard Benedek took over. Under Benedek's management in 1985, WBKO built its present studios on Russellville Road.
By October 7, 2001, an agreement between this station and the area's cable provider allowed WBKO to launch cable-exclusive WB affiliate, WBWG, through The WB 100+ Station Group because the Bowling Green market had a rank of 183. Since it was a cable-exclusive outlet, the WBWG call sign was not officially recognized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). WBKO provided sales and promotional opportunities to WBWG. By September 3, 2002, the station's WB+ cable channel was also identified as WB12.
In 2000, the station began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 33. In 2002, Benedek sold most of his stations (including WBKO) to owner Gray Television. Due to its fairly close proximity to Nashville, Tennessee (about 60 miles (97 km)), WBKO has competed with that market's ABC affiliate WKRN for viewer allegiance.
From January 10, 1992, until March 10, 2001, WKNT (channel 40, now NBC affiliate WNKY) served as the Fox network affiliate for south central Kentucky. When WNKY became the area's NBC affiliate, the Bowling Green area was, by default, served over-the-air and via cable television by WZTV in nearby Nashville. WZTV also served as the default Fox affiliate from 1990 until January 1992, but it was WCAY-TV (later UPN affiliate WUXP-TV, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) that served as the default Fox affiliate from the network's 1987 beginning until 1990, when WZTV took the Fox affiliation in Nashville. Carriage of the distant Fox affiliates were a way for the market to be served by Fox without resorting to carrying the Foxnet national service for the smallest markets.
Meanwhile, in Hart County, cable systems in that area was served by Louisville Fox affiliate WDRB. WDRB was also carried on Glasgow based South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative and the Glasgow Electric Plant Board cable systems throughout the 1990s and the 2000s. In areas east of Bowling Green, Campbellsville-based WGRB (now the defunct WBKI-TV), which mainly served the Louisville market's southern areas, was an alternative default Fox affiliate from 1990 until 1992. That station later became the default over-the-air affiliate of The WB for parts of the area.
In September 2006, WBKO-Fox subchannel 13-2 was launched to serve as a new Fox affiliate for the Bowling Green media market. This filled a gap created in 2001 when WNKY dropped its Fox affiliation and switched to NBC. Thirteen days later, WBKO-DT3 went on the air as an over-the-air relaunch of the then cable-exclusive CW+ affiliate WBWG.
WBKO-DT2 broadcasts the entire Fox network primetime schedule and weekend schedules, except for the Xploration Station Saturday morning block. Fox's programming also includes some national special reports from Fox News and Fox News Sunday, as well as sports programming from Fox's sports broadcasting division. Syndicated programs on WBKO-DT2 include Pawn Stars, The People's Court, The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, The Andy Griffith Show, Mike & Molly, Last Man Standing, Two and a Half Men, and Extra.
Until June 2016, WBKO-DT2 ran programming from Jewelry Television overnight from 1:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Jewelry Television was dropped and replaced with infomercials and replays of certain syndicated programming from the main channel.
From the network's launch in 1995 until the September 1998 inception of the WB 100+ feed, markets without a WB affiliate, including Bowling Green, were served via cable TV by Chicago's WB affiliate WGN-TV, one of the few national superstations in the United States. In September 1998, WBKO, in conjunction with Insight Communications (later Time Warner Cable, now Charter Spectrum), entered a joint-venture to operate cable-only WBWG, an affiliate of The WB, and received programming via The WB 100+, a national network feed specifically designed to serve WB affiliates that are not within the top 100 markets. At the time of the launch of WBWG, Bowling Green had a market ranking of 183. The call letters were fictional and were not recognized by the FCC since it was a cable-exclusive outlet. The channel provided all of The WB's programming, along with syndicated programming provided by The WB 100+ feed. It had the branding WB 12 for most of its tenure with the WB.
Over-the-air viewers could still view The WB via a distant station, depending on location. Antenna users in southern portions of the Bowling Green market viewed the network via WNAB in Nashville after that station signed on in 1995. Areas east of Bowling Green (from Brownsville and Glasgow) eastward could pick up the signal of Campbellsville-licensed WBKI-TV, which serves the Louisville area; that station's transmitter location, which is near the western Marion County community of Raywick, covers much of Central Kentucky and provides secondary coverage (Grade-B quality signal or better) into the eastern portions of the Bowling Green market. WBKI's transmitter power and location at the time made that station have the largest coverage area for any station based in the state of Kentucky, covering portions of three media markets, including the Louisville, Bowling Green and Lexington markets. For all intents and purposes, WBKI was the default over-the-air WB affiliate for both Bowling Green and Lexington, especially after Lexington-based WBLU-LP dropped its WB affiliation. WBKI was also carried on dozens of cable systems in the three markets, as well as parts of the Nashville market in areas around Dale Hollow Lake.
On January 24, 2006, UPN and The WB announced the two networks would cease broadcasting and merge. The new combined service would be called The CW. The CW launched on September 18 and WBWG became affiliated with The CW via The CW Plus (a similar operation to The WB 100+). After becoming available on a new third digital subchannel of WBKO, it dropped the faux calls in favor of WBKO-CW. WBWG (now WBKO-DT3) had been carried on all cable systems in the Bowling Green market since its 1998 inception.
In October 2006, WBKI was dropped from any Bowling Green-market cable system that carried it to give WBKO-DT3 cable exclusivity as a CW affiliate. Meanwhile, WBKI was also dropped from Lexington-area cable systems to make way for former UPN affiliate WKYT-DT2 (a digital subchannel of CBS affiliate WKYT-TV, a sister station to WBKO) after that subchannel joined The CW at the time of that network's inception. WBKI's analog signal could still be picked up over-the-air in select areas of the market with an outdoor antenna until the 2009 digital television transition. WBKI-TV's principal signal was taken off the air in 2017 as a result of the 2016–17 FCC spectrum incentive auction, four years after that station began to share the channel space with a Salem, Indiana-licensed station that now uses the WBKI callsign.
WBKO-DT3, along with WCZU-LD, are the only two major network affiliated stations in the market not offered on Dish Network, due in part to CW and MyNetworkTV affiliated superstations being offered to grandfathered subscribers on Dish. DirecTV does not carry any of Bowling Green's local channels.
As of June 2018, the over-the-air feed of WBKO-DT3 continued airing in a 16:9 widescreen standard definition picture format; it could not be upgraded to high definition, most likely due to bandwidth limitations prohibiting WBKO from transmitting all three of their feeds in HD simultaneously. WBKO-DT3's high definition signal continues to be exclusive to Spectrum channel 117.
WBKO-DT3 clears all of the CW's primetime programming. As a CW Plus affiliate, syndicated programming on this channel is provided by the network-run feed. As of September 2014, programming includes Seinfeld, The Steve Wilkos Show, Maury, The Cleveland Show, King of the Hill, The King of Queens, and Page Six TV. In a few events, WBKO preempts some of the feed's programming in favor of other syndicated programming or to broadcast local sports programming, such as the tape-delayed broadcasts of the KHSAA Boys' and Girls' Sweet 16 Basketball Championship games, and the Kentucky–Indiana all-star high school basketball games in March. In some cases, WBKO-DT3 had previously carried some Raycom Sports or SEC TV broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football and men's basketball games when WBKO carried them from 2008 until 2014 on ABC or Fox Sports.
|TV stations in Kentucky|
|TV stations in Kentucky|
|TV stations in Kentucky|
|TV stations in South Central Kentucky, including Bowling Green and Glasgow|
|WDNZ-LD 11 (ANTENNA) |
WBKO 13 (ABC)
W14DG-D 14 (Silent → ABC)
WKYU 24 (PBS)
WPBM-CD 31 (Rel.)
WCZU-LD 39 (ANTENNA/MNTV)
WNKY 40 (NBC)
WKGB 53 (PBS)